New publication: Human rights and correctional health policy

The latest issue of the International Journal of Prisoner Health has just been published. Prof Brie Williams, Cyrus Ahalt, Prof Craig Haney, Dr. Scott Allen and Prof Josiah Rich are the editors of a special issue on the topic of ‘translating research into policy to advance correctional health’.

I have a piece in this special issue entitled ‘Human Rights and Correctional Health Policy: a View from Europe‘. In the piece, I examine how human rights principles can shape health policy in our prisons and jails for the benefit of the administration of correctional services.

Prisons and jails are eminently rule-bound institutions, and correctional law can be a key source of protection for those in prison, but also for prison staff and those who work in healthcare settings. In the piece, I argue that European human rights principles are distinctive, and that they offer the possibility of improving how healthcare is managed in prisons and jails. For example, the European Court of Human Rights has reiterated the importance for prisoners to be able to access medical care without undue delayA person’s incapacity may mean that release is necessary in order to comply with Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The European Court of Human Rights has also turned its attention to the rehabilitative programmes for those whose prospects of release are linked to their ability to address their level of risk. In Murray v. the Netherlands the Court held that, while there was no right to rehabilitation as such in European prison law, prison authorities must provide prisoners with the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves in circumstances where eligibility for release depends on accessing such programmes.

While the focus on access to rehabilitation may be a distinctive European prison law norm (see van zyl Smit and Snacken), constitutional law principles from the United States can also guide the imposition of improved healthcare. In Brown v. Plata, the famous case arising out of severe overcrowding in California (and brought by the Prison Law Office), the Supreme Court of the United States held that prisoners retain the essence of human dignity inherent in all persons. Recognising this dignity is an idea unrestrained by national boundaries. It is also an idea physicians and human rights professionals try to live out every day.

The special issue also contains work by Jamie Bennett and Richard Shuker on the potential of prison-based democratic therapeutic communities, and by Jae Sevelius and Valerie Jenness on challenges and opportunities for gender-affirming healthcare for women in prison. There is a very timely piece by Cyrus Ahalt, Craig Haney and colleagues on reducing the use and impact of solitary confinement, as well as a research paper on the policy implication of ageing prison populations.

Please contact me for an open access (green) version of the paper, or see here.

New publication: Human rights and correctional health policy

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